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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: My Roommate Does No Chores at Home

Dear Stavroula, 

My name is Sophia and I am a student. My freshman year I lived alone, but then I decided to move in with my best friend. We had high hopes as roommates. We have been living together for a few months now and our relationship is at a tipping point. She cannot understand that roommates have obligations. She leaves the house as it is, the kitchen is dirty, her things are thrown everywhere and when I go to talk to her she gets furious and attacks me verbally. It is impossible to communicate. I have tried many times to explain to her that I cannot clean up after her and that we must share chores fairly, but she tells me to look out for myself and even begins to accuse me of things that happened years ago. All this makes me very sad, because we have been friends since we were little, our parents have both professional and family relationships and I do not want to end up cutting off all communication with her. But on the other hand, I feel like a sucker and that she takes advantage of me when I take on all the housework. How do I get her pitch in without arguing with her? 

Sophia 

Dear Sophia, 

The way your friend reacts when you ask her to share chores around the house seems excessive. However, there are people who are not neat and others who maintain a schedule and are organized. How was your friend when you were in high school? What was her place like where she slept or studied? If this has always been the case, then you may not be a fit to live together. 

But if she were not so indifferent to the space she lived in before and there are no other issues in your relationship, this could be happening for many reasons. 

Your friend may not be receptive to the way you ask her to do the housework. She may feel that you are criticizing her behavior and she overreacts. In this case, try to communicate the problem to her by telling her not what she does not do, but how you feel about this situation. That is, instead of telling her "you did not clean the kitchen again," you could say to her "when the kitchen is not clean, I feel that I have to clean it immediately and this worries me because then I get behind on everything else I have to do." This way of communicating by focusing on the "I" and not on the "you" helps the other person to understand how we feel and why something is bothering us, without feeling that we are criticizing him or her. 

Of course, there is also the possibility that something will not change again, because your roommate is comfortable in this situation, where you take on most of the housework and behave in this way, because she does not want to take on her responsibilities. In this case, it is important to set boundaries and refuse to take on responsibilities that are not your own. Explain to her how much you are hurt by this whole situation that brings your relationship to its breaking point and how much you would like to be able to coexist calmly. Ask her to suggest what could be done so that you can share things fairly and ask her what might be bothering her and how she would like the situation in your home to be. In this way, she may also express her own concerns and you will be able to better understand her behavior. 

Finally, there is always the possibility that she is facing a problem that she cannot manage and this has changed her behavior. If this has happened and you know about it, talk to her about how you can help her or make her feel better and give her some time to find herself again. 

But do not forget that it is very important to feel good about the people who live with us. If you feel that living with your friend stresses you out, makes you lose your composure, and you are constantly on the defensive, you may need to stop living together. After all, friendship and living together are two different things.

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